IN FORM: AJ Gilbert (centre) should be one of the standout performers when the FNC Rugby Union kicks off next month.
IN FORM: AJ Gilbert (centre) should be one of the standout performers when the FNC Rugby Union kicks off next month. Coffs Coast Advocate

Former Waratah bolster's Byron's ranks

EXPECT Byron Bay recruit AJ Gilbert to hit the ground running when the Far North Coast Rugby Union competition starts next month.

Gilbert, 26, had his first game playing for FNC against Gold Coast in a trial game at the weekend as the Dolphins prepare for the NSW Country Championships.

The former NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds flanker also played for the Australian Barbarians against Queensland A last month.

He scored a hat-trick in that game and also crossed the line for FNC.

Gilbert has tried to bring a more professional approach to the Byron Bay team as they prepare for their second season back in first grade.

"I'm really enjoying it; there are plenty of things we're working on," he said. "The numbers at training are good and we're making some inroads with sponsors and junior development."

Gilbert is fresh from a Shute Shield stint in Sydney, and played two Super Rugby games for the Waratahs last year.

A strong performance at the Country Championships should see him picked in the NSW Country Cockatoos side.

FNC are competing in the second tier of the competition and will aim to take out the Richardson Shield for the first time since 2010.

"I definitely think we can win it," Gilbert said. "I thought it was a pretty solid effort considering it was against one of the premier teams from Queensland.

"I think we have the right people involved who really want to make it a success."

Gilbert has a busy schedule with more Australian Barbarians games on the cards.

He and former Wollongbar junior Bill Johnston have been involved in the program for the past couple of years.

"There is no money involved," Gilbert said.

"We just come together and play for the love of the game.

"You go into the game without any pressure and often you play some of your best rugby."

FNC next play Mid North Coast in Coffs Harbour next weekend.



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